A sister club exchange program allows McConnell Golf chefs to mix things up

There's wisdom in that old adage, “two heads are better than one,” especially when it comes to dining programs at McConnell Golf. “We asked our chefs to take a turn both hosting a chef and visiting a chef during the year,” says James Patterson (aka JP), the company’s corporate executive chef who oversees the culinary programs at Sedgefield Country Club and The Cardinal by Pete Dye. “It could be any type of event, a beer dinner, a wine dinner, a farm-to-table dinner, even a member-guest.”

Visiting other clubs expands each chef’s knowledge and skills, while giving them a feel for a club other than their own. “When I go to Sedgefield, not only do they have a bigger membership base than we do and they’re busier than we are, but they have more staff. So you have more people and ideas,” explains Patrick Budniewski, executive chef at Holston Hills Country Club in Knoxville, Tennessee. He especially enjoys looking over other chefs’ menus and seeing how that membership responds to different dishes.

This, in turn, gets the creative juices flowing. “Just talking with other chefs gives me new ideas and perspective on new things to do,” says Budniewski, a New York native who likes to reinvent Southern classics. He recently did a Sunday brunch at The Country Club of Asheville with Chef Bruce McIntosh, to which he brought local cheeses and Benton’s bacon from East Tennessee. “We used the bacon in three ways — we even made coconut, chocolate chip and bacon scones.” At the suggestion of one of the Asheville line cooks, they also made a bacon-maple glaze to drizzle on the scones. “I had no idea how the membership would respond to it,” Budniewski admits, “but we ran out of scones about halfway through brunch that day.”

Yet the chefs aren’t the only ones who find value in visiting other clubs. Members also benefit from having exposure to different styles of cuisine. “It keeps dining exciting,” Budniewski says. “When Bruce came up [to Holston Hills], we did a health and wellness dinner. He did a demo of an Asian-style gluten-free noodle bowl. It was fun for members to see, and it was something we could do here, too. Every chef has a different style to show off.”